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Image / Living / Culture

Julia Stiles had some really lovely things to say about working with Heath Ledger


by Sarah Finnan
11th Jul 2021

Ten Things I Hate About You

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Working together on '10 Things I Hate About You',  Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger played Kat Stratford and Patrick Verona respectively.

One an antisocial sceptic with strong feminist ideals, the other a rebel without a cause – you probably would never have put Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger’s 10 Things I Hate About You characters together, but somehow, it just really works. Reflecting on what it was like to work with Heath, Stiles had some pretty lovely things to say about her costar, especially looking back now when they were both on the cusp of fame.

Remembering him as being one of the most gracious people she’s had the pleasure to work with, Stiles admits on the People in the ‘90s podcast that he was definitely one of the special ones

Take the famous poetry scene, for example. Probably the most emotionally charged scene in the movie, it wasn’t always intended to be. In fact, Stiles wasn’t even scripted to cry in it – previously telling Cosmpolitan that her reaction was “not intentional”. “I never expected that I was going to start crying. I don’t know why I did, whether it connected to something going on at the time, or if I was just overwhelmed by the whole experience of making my first big movie,” she admitted.

Speaking out about that particular experience once again, the New York City native recalled how Ledger was perfectly happy to just let her have her moment. “I remember Heath Ledger was so gracious about the whole thing. I appreciate this so much more now having worked more,” she told podcast co-hosts Jason Sheeler and Andrea Lavinthal. 

Understanding that letting others shine was mutually beneficial to him and the movie as a whole, she noted that he “wasn’t trying to compete” for screentime. “He stood back and he was like, this is your scene,” she recalled. “When they did his reaction shot, he didn’t well up. He didn’t go, ‘Ok, now I have to do something with my side of the camera’. He was just like, ‘That was beautiful and this is your scene.’”

Of course, Ledger’s character had his own magic moments in the movie too. That musical number,  hello? “You know, he had his amazing moments in the movie too – the singing and dancing and running up and down those steps. But he was confident enough, even just starting out, to be like, ‘I’m handing over the stage to you.’ And I learned way later in life that that doesn’t always happen.” Ledger later died of an accidental overdose in 2008 at the age of 28.

Once describing the movie as her “big break” to NME, Stiles said that the poetry scene was “emblematic” of how she felt all throughout filming. “We were all really present and it was just so uninhibited. None of the actors felt jaded or shut down [on set]. We were all having a great time.” Crediting 10 Things I Hate About You as being the launchpad for her career, Stiles said that she has a lot to thank Kat for. “I have since generally been given roles where the character has a lot of strength. I think that started with Kat.”

That movie never fails to break my heart.

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